Maybe the coolest aspect of traveling the world along the ‘Backpacker’s Trail’ is the camaraderie felt amongst fellow travelers, the common bond shared between those you come across while on the road- the ‘Brotherhood of the Backpack’, as we like to call it. It’s a little-known club in the US- most Americans have no idea it even exists. It is something that can only be discovered when out on the road- hanging out in a hostel common room, buying rounds at a backpacker’s bar, sharing a cabin on a cross-country train, or sipping tea at 2am at a 24-hour rest-stop during an over-night bus ride. It’s pretty amazing, actually- you have all these people, all hailing from different countries, with vastly different backgrounds, beliefs, and histories, yet, in the end, we all have at least one thing in common- we’re travelers. We’re adventurers. Explorers. Risk-takers. We’ve all got that ‘something’ inside of us- something that searches for the new, that seeks out the unknown, that challenges us to face our fears and step out of our comfort zone. Regardless of how different you may be from someone you meet while traveling, you will still inevitably have that one thing in common. It’s pretty awesome.
Due to this commonality, there’s an undefined connection that most backpackers feel amongst their peers- an understanding and respect for each other that somehow remains in place and intact, all while going completely unmentioned.
Call it ‘The Backpacker’s Code’- the unstated dogma that each and every backpacker is expected to exist and interact under. The unwritten ‘Rules of the Road’, so to speak. Guidelines, rules, laws- whatever you want to call them- they are the ideas and expectations that, once you’ve joined the ‘Brotherhood of the Backpack’, you’re expected to adhere to, just as you learn to expect others to as well. These unwritten rules help to maintain some semblance of order amongst the chaos that goes hand-in-hand with the ‘Backpacker’s Life’, and serve to make the experience of ‘Backpacking’ more enjoyable for all.
‘Hands off other people’s stuff’- Hostel dorms can be a bit of a free-for-all, people leaving everything from random pieces of clothing to expensive electronics laying around. A system of self-policing and common respect helps to prevent most incidents of theft. Messing with other people’s belongings- a MAJOR no-no.
‘All are equals on the Backpacker’s Trail, regardless of race, sex, or nationality’- inevitably, ‘Backpacking’ involves meeting people from all over the world along the way. Prejudice and racism- not only are they ridiculous, they’re counter-intuitive to the experience. You're out there to meet new people and experience new things, right...? Sure, you may catch some light jabs- regardless of where you are from- but lighten up. Generally, they’re all in good fun, and it gives you permission to fire right back. Bottom line- all are EQUALS on the Backpacker’s Trail.
‘Hostel events, whether pre-planned or spontaneous- are for EVERYONE’- If you’re in the room, you’re invited- a pick-up soccer match, a trip to a pub, a walk down to the beach- these are just big social mixers- a chance for everyone to meet everyone else. No one gets excluded.
‘Information is currency’- The sharing of information is a staple of the Brotherhood- backpacking is ALL ABOUT sharing insider information about different activities and destinations. Where the best hostels are, how to get a discount on a great tour, the perfect spot to watch a sunset or go for a swim- if someone gives you a little nugget of info, don’t hold back from offering a little advice of your own.
These are just a few of the many nuances that make up The Code. Honestly, you won’t know it all until you get out there and learn it for yourself. Consider it part of your initiation- the trial by fire of joining the Brotherhood of the Backpack. Trust me- learning the ins and outs of the code will make your life on the road MUCH easier, and honestly, you’re bound to have fun figuring it out along the way...